What Are You Really Selling?

“From chewing gum to a corporate jet, it will either solve
a problem or help achieve an important goal.”

by Michael Cooney

I once had a convalescent hospital as a client. The administrator asked me to write a new brochure for them. When working with a new client, I ask many questions so I can zero in on the most compelling concepts to use. One of the questions I asked the administrator was: “What are you really selling--what is it that your patients and their families are actually buying from you?”

She gave the answer I expected, mentioning the excellent medical care, the staff qualifications, the amenities of the facility, the activities available, and so on. I then asked her to be open minded to a new direction, and to put herself in her client’s shoes. I suggested that what she was really selling was... peace of mind.

Think of it. Most often, the person making arrangements for the patient is not the patient himself but a family member. And for that family member, the thing they want more than anything else in the world is to know that they are doing what is best for their loved one. That their family member will be safe and well cared for simply translates into peace of mind.

How the hospital accomplishes that is secondary. And yes, those technical areas are important and were included in the brochure. But the selling point is the family’s most important goal: how placing your loved one here will give you peace of mind.

You’re Selling One of Two Things

Now... how about your company? What are you really selling? Without even knowing you or what you offer, I can tell you what you’re selling. You are either selling your customers the solution to a problem, or helping them accomplish an important goal. That’s what they care most about, and that’s why they’re talking to you.

Name any product or service you want, and it will fit into one of those two categories. I don’t care what it is. From chewing gum to a corporate jet, it will either solve a problem or help achieve an important goal.

Take another example. Two people walk into a Chevrolet dealer. One is looking at Cavaliers. The other, Corvettes. Both are Chevys. Both will get you from point A to point B. So, do you sell both customers in the same way? We’ll see.

A Cavalier provides economical, reliable transportation -- with a back seat for the kids. A Corvette offers high performance. Excitement. Racing history and heritage. And for many, something desired since childhood. Quite different motivations, yet each car helps its buyer achieve important personal goals. But since those goals are different, the sales pitches must be different -- carefully matched to address each buyer’s goals.

When Is A Liftgate Not Just A Liftgate?

I have a friend in Medford Oregon, Gary, who owns a fascinating business. He takes trucks of most any size, from large pickups on up, and modifies them so they can perform specific tasks. He can install specialized tool boxes, dump bodies, snow plows, hoists, lifts, boom cranes, articulating cranes -- you name it. Talk about a gold mine of examples! Every job he does either solves a major problem, or helps its owner achieve an important goal.

When Gary installs a liftgate, is his customer really buying a liftgate? Or is he buying a method of lifting heavy items into the truck so he can save his back, work faster, and hire fewer employees for lifting?

Can you see how everything sold either solves a problem or accomplishes a goal? Everything you bought last year, and will buy this year, is for one of those two reasons. Yes, even that lowly stick of chewing gum -- you may want to freshen your breath, or use it to substitute for a cigarette if you’re trying to quit. Or simply to relax you. But you either bought it to solve a problem, or achieve a goal.

Now look at your advertising and marketing materials. How strongly do they focus on solving your prospect’s biggest headache, or helping them accomplish an important goal?

The more you demonstrate how you can help with their problems and goals, the more they will seek you out. Makes sense, doesn’t it?